Belmont Stakes 2014: California Chrome Has Date with Destiny

California Chrome is the 3-5 favorite for the Belmont Stakes.(Photo credit: churchilldowns.com).

We have been here before. A dozen horses have shown up in New York looking to wrap up the Triple Crown since 1978, and all have come up short. Now, 36 years after Affirmed became the last Triple Crown winner, California Chrome has his date with destiny.

The Racing Gods seem to be shining down on the connections of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, and the colt has looked as if he still has plenty left in the tank, galloping, jogging and working as well as he has all spring.

We could not ask for nicer guys in owners Perry Martin and Steven Coburn, trainer Art Sherman and jockey Victor Espinoza. The colt’s modest pedigree- he is by the sire Lucky Pulpit out of a mare that broke her maiden for $8,000- has made this colt America’s horse. We all have the dream of turning a cheap horse into a stakes winner.

The colt is 3-5 on the morning line, and even many well-known public handicappers are on the bandwagon despite the puny price. The weather will be perfect on Saturday, and we could see a crowd at Belmont Park that rivals the record crowd that came out in 2004 to root on Smarty Jones.

 

However, the race still has to be run, and as I said, we have been here before. In 2008, Big Brown was a mortal lock at 1-5 and was eased. In 2004, Smarty Jones was also 1-5, looked like a winner midstretch, and was run down late by longshot Birdstone.

War Emblem stumbled coming out of the gate in 2002. Heck, I’ll Have Another’s bid was derailed the day before with a tendon injury.

Real Quiet was heading for home with the Triple Crown in his back pocket in 1998. I distinctly remember being at Pimlico jumping up and down with my arms in the air as the colt headed to the wire, only to get nipped in the final jump by Victory Gallop.  My arms and head were down shortly thereafter.

A couple of years before that I was at Belmont Park, and as Sunday Silence grabbed a short lead as they turned for home the noise of the crowd literally lifted me off my feet. We were about to witness history, but Easy Goer had other plans, and rolled right by in the stretch to win by open lengths.

Now it is 2014 and California Chrome is on the verge of making history, and the odds seem to be in his favor.  With his running style, the colt seems certain to be on the lead when they turn for home.

However, as we have seen a few too many times, there may be a runner waiting in the wings to spoil the party. While my heart says the colt will get the job done, my bankroll is telling me there is more value out there.

Either way, it is going to be a great day.

 

A Blockbuster Card

The New York Racing Association moved several stakes to Belmont Stakes Day, most likely so it would still be an important day during those years there is not a Triple Crown bid hanging in the balance.

What we have on Saturday is one of the best betting cards, and the richest, other than the Breeders’ Cup. We have 10 stakes in total, with five supporting Grade 1 races.

Let’s take a quick look:

The Acorn:A field of 13 three-year-old fillies will line up in the Acorn going one mile on the main track. My Miss Sophia is the 6-5 morning line favorite off her solid second in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) behind Untapable. While she looks like a standout, it is a talented group of fillies that include Spinaway (G1) winner Sweet Reason, Frizette victor Artemis Agrotera and Santa Anta Oaks (G1) winner Fashion Plate.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out 18 runners on the Belmont Stakes Day card.

Ogden Phipps: Perhaps the most anticipated race on the card other than the Belmont Stakes. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner Beholder takes on Princess of Sylmar, who won four Grade 1 races last year, and Close Hatches, who won two Grade 1 races last year including the Mother Goose over the Belmont Park main track.

Just a Game:The ladies take to the turf, with Discreet Marq the one to beat off her solid second in the Jenny Wiley (G1). Stephanie’s Kitten is better than she showed in her last outing and figures to bounce back, and Better Lucky will appreciate the return to turf.

The Met Mile: Palace Malice is going to be the chalk and he is coming into this race in the best form of his career. He only beat three foes in the Westchester (G3) in his last start, but sure looked good doing it. Normandy Invasion was actually the favorite over Palace Malice in his last start in the New Orleans Handicap (G2) but had to settle for third.

The Manhattan: The male turf division is not as strong as in past years, but this is a good betting race with a wide open field of 10 going 1 ¼ miles. The Bill Mott trained Seek Again is the 3-1 morning line favorite after missing in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic by a head to two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan.

TVG and HRTV will televise the early races, with NBC Sports Network starting coverage at 2:30pm (ET). The Belmont Stakes coverage on NBC starts at 4:30pm (ET).

 

Michael Dempsey’s Belmont Stakes Day Report

Michael’s Belmont Stakes Day Report includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for the entire Belmont Stakes Day card.

The third jewel of the Triple Crown features an outstanding day of horse betting that also includes five supporting Grade 1 races on an outstanding 13-race card.

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